Canadian Content Online - an assessment 2011

In a recent article published by the Stratford institute, I argue that in order for Canada to remain competitive in the “knowledge economy”, we must invest more heavily in creating and preserving our digital heritage resources.

Over the last 15 years, we have digitized approximately 13% of Canada’s text based documentary heritage and less than 1% of all other multi-media. While this represents significant progress, we must do better. Canada is falling behind other nations in providing access to our national heritage

A recent UK report published by JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee) talks about the benefits and impacts of access to digitized heritage resources for our society, which include improvements to education, research, the economy, and community engagement.

Other countries are investing substantially in putting their cultural and scientific heritage online as well as building infrastructure and capacity to manage and exploit digital content. The Stratford Report 2011 looks at several indicators that illustrate Canada's slow but steady decline in this area. For example, Canada's ranking in terms of ICT connectivity and economic performance for 2010 was 9th, down from 7th in 2009 and 4th in 2008.

Canada’s documentary heritage is held by many memory institutions across the country. They recognize the critical importance of digitizing and providing access to their digitized collections- and have been doing so now for over a decade. They have also been self-organizing regionally and nationally in collaborative projects to benefit from shared expertise, economies of scale, common goals and interoperability.

We do have a strong foundation on which to build and grow Canada’s digital content. However, it is now time to increase the volume and variety of content types which we are digitizing. This will require a greater understanding in policy circles about the value of access to digitized heritage resources, and a greater political will at all levels of government- national, provincial, and municipal- to support digitization activities.

Ron Walker, Executive Director, Canadiana.org